For many families, weekends are a time to cut loose—from school, work, and even, ahem, bedtime rules. Friday and Saturday night fun often means kids get tucked in later than usual, but that’s okay as long as they can sleep later in the morning, right?
Getting enough shut-eye is essential for your child’s mental and physical development, but too much sleeping in on the weekends can breed Sunday sleeplessness. And that means a less-rested start to the week for everybody. Irregular bedtimes even have been linked to lower test scores and behavior problems in grade-school kids. Wherever possible, try to limit late nights (and late wake-ups) to within about an hour of your child’s usual weekday schedule. Then follow these five tips for a smoother sendoff to dreamland on Sunday nights.
1. Play hard to sleep hard. The more active your child is during the day, the quicker he or she is likely to fall asleep at night. For every hour children spend being sedentary (like watching TV), it takes them an extra three minutes to nod off.
2. Get ahead of the curve on homework. There’s no faster way to stress out on a Sunday night than to suddenly realize that your child still has homework to do. If your child is a known procrastinator, schedule a regular Saturday or Sunday morning homework session over pancakes, while your kid is wide awake and energized (and not yet cranky).
3. Say goodnight to screens. Computers and smartphones and tablets—oh my! The light these devices emit can stimulate (not settle down) your kid. Children who use electronics as sleep aids have later weekday bedtimes, experience fewer hours of sleep per week, and report more daytime sleepiness. So put all bright electronics to bed at least an hour before your child turns in—and leave them outside the bedroom.
4. Tidy up the bedroom. There’s no shortage of reasons to straighten up at the end of the day, but here’s one to add to your list: It makes for a more relaxing sleep environment. While you’re at it, make sure the room is cool, dark, and quiet, the ideal setting for healthy sleep.